Top of the populi: the most tweeted pictures, videos, links, issues, names, emoji, swearwords and more in GE19


It’s twenty four hours since the Conservatives won a remarkable majority in the 2019 General Election. There has already been an avalanche of nuanced (and not so nuanced) debate about quite whether Johnson won, or Corbyn lost, about whether Brexit is The Beginning or The End, and on, and on, and on.

This post is going to deal with exactly none of that stuff. If you want serious business, go stick your face in Politico or the FT. (I like the FT, by the way. This isn’t a dig at them.) If what you’d like right now is something lighter, but still surprisingly informative (er, maybe) then I present here a range of probably useless, but possibly interesting facts about twenty-four hours of Twitter data gathered during the final critical hours of the 2019 UK General Election. This blog post tells you all about the top devices, videos, pictures, links, names, places, issues, emotions, and swearwords, pretty much in that order, so if you came here for all the fucks, just scroll waaaaay down to the bottom. Similarly, if you want to just skip down to the start of the fun stuff, click here. Otherwise, if you appreciate a little data salad and caution sauce with your result reuben, then keep reading. Continue reading

Academia is a cake-eating contest, in which the prize for eating the most is… more cake

Oh the weather outside is dreary

And marking is making you weary

And you’ve got that draft to revise

And that grant! And reviews! And replies!

Something we talk a lot about in academia is work-life balance. We have committees on it. We hold meetings about it. I’ve seen workshops scheduled on it that ran from 2pm till 8pm with apparently no sense of irony. Everyone sings the same song, and yet, systematically, the attacks on our free time come from all sides. Most of us feel pushed into a 100% teaching/admin load, with another 33% on top for research during evenings and weekends. And most of us feel a sinking abyss of guilt when we say no to other people because our refusal seems, in the short-term, to leave them with even more to do, or to stem from us not doing our fair share.

This post is all about being selfish. It is about protecting your free time (whenever you decide to schedule that free time, morning, noon, night, I don’t care). It is about respecting and supporting your own physical and psychological well-being. And it is about stemming the infinite avalanche of crap that will otherwise continue to pour onto your desk and into your inbox.

This is a Five Step Plan to a Better You. It will give you shinier hair. Longer nails. Sparklier teeth. Smoother skin. More toes. Literally everything you ever wanted, except for all those things I just listed. But really, it should lead to a better you, because you will get the time you should have to be you, and do stuff that makes you you, and it will build in emotional and logistical reserves for the times when shit gets hyper-busy.

It will also, hopefully, help you to recognise your limits, and stop you from disappointing people in future by preventing you from saying, “Yes” to something that it will be virtually impossible for you to do.
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Post mortem: dissecting letters from experts

(Get it? POST mortem? Because it came by… po- never mind.)

This is the unexpected third part of what has turned into a disinformation trinity. I hadn’t expected the first part in late November (the Conservatives’ factcheckUK saga), I was marginally less surprised at the second instalment in early December (the three big parties’ “local newspapers”), and by this third volume, I have hit a wall of weary acceptance. A single instance can be discounted as anomalous, but three is a pattern. A tiresome, dangerous, corrosive pattern that suggests a much wider comfort with behaviours that the electorate find problematic than I, at least, had previously thought.

So what’s the story for this latest and (hopefully!) final chapter before the General Election strikes? Somewhere throughout November 2019, the Liberal Democrats started sending out letters. Here are two exemplars – one that is fairly representative of those distributed in England, and one that seems to be fairly representative of those sent in Scotland. Continue reading

The local news_apers: Tadmouth Gazette or Badmouth Gersatz?

As election season gets underway, more and more instances of disinformation and misinformation (just plain fake news if you’re feeling fed up) keep hitting the headlines. Stoned squirrels, dead cats, fake factcheckers, dodgy polls, it’s all happening right now. Disinformation is in the headlines, everywhere.

But there’s a catch with disinformation.

And headlines.

Sometimes, they’re the same thing.

In the past few weeks, people began to tweet about free local newspapers that were being posted through their doors. Luckily for me, plenty included photos, usually of the front page, pointing out that this apparently free journalistic offering was in actuality a political publication with a clear agenda to persuade voters to support particular candidates. More to the point, people were not happy. At the extreme, some felt that these were literal embodiments of disinformation and should be aggressively prosecuted. Still others felt that these were problematic, manipulative, and/or deceitful, but not unexpected. And at the other extreme, some people responded that these publications allegedly all disclose their true identities and agendas in various ways, so the responsibility is on the reader. (We’ll get into that more later.) Continue reading

The introvert academic’s alternative networking guide

If you want to dodge the preamble and get stuck straight into the nitty gritty, click here. It’ll jump you down past these opening paragraphs. Otherwise if you like a context starter with your main guidelines dish, keep reading.

Let’s start this simply. I am an entrenched introvert. On the scale, I would put myself at a cold, clear ten out of ten. I don’t merely find networking events and mid-conference coffee gatherings and social meet-and-eats uncomfortable. They set off all my anxiety klaxons and I invariably lose anywhere between 99% and all of my ability to function like a normal person. Appropriate topics of conversation? Let’s do serial killers of the 20th century. Normal methods of eating? I am going to tackle this sandwich with a knife and straw. Hot container of coffee? We should all bathe in it. Sometimes I can manage ten minutes. Sometimes I can even get to half an hour. And then, all at once, I’m done. The energy supply is depleted. It’s time to suddenly need to go to the toilet (i.e. escape) or go check with reception about some minor detail (i.e. e s c a p e) or discover that my train sets off soon (i.e. ! E ! S ! C ! A ! P ! E !). Continue reading